Friday 30 September 2022, JW Marriott Grosvenor
November 2022, Virtual
21 November 2022, Hilton London Metropole
Bill Walshe is chief executive of The Doyle Collection. Formerly marketing director of Jumeirah, the Dubai based luxury hospitality group, he is currently leading The Doyle Collection portfolio through a comprehensive, upscale repositioning. This involves the renovation of the hotels, the creation of a new brand platform and service approach and the launch of a new sales and distribution infrastructure
How did the Doyle Collection come to be formed?
The Jurys Doyle hotel group was taken into private ownership just over two years ago. The company had two distinct divisions: a hotels division and an inns division. Some of the hotels carried the Jurys name, some didn't but all the inns did. So it was really quite confusing. The owners are the next generation of our founder's family - PV Doyle - and they are hoteliers at heart, so they decided to spin off any part of the business which didn't have the potential to be a really unique modern luxury hotel. That meant the inns division went to Quinlan Private, and they are doing a very good job there with Jurys Inn and good luck to them. Looking at what remained, there were some hotels in good locations but clearly in need of investment and tender loving care, and there were some which it didn't really make sense trying to turn around because they didn't fit in with what we were trying to do. After that process had been finished, it left a portfolio of 11 hotels, or 10 plus one because in Washington DC we run a Marriott courtyard which is well run and will continue to be under that brand. We have just over 1500 rooms in total, and most of the hotels are in the 200-300 mark.
What we did then was decide what we wanted to do, and then put our heads down and get on with it. It's been a two year process and we are coming to the end of it. And now as the product emerges we are coming out to talk about it.
So what has been achieved?
A tremendous amount and that was the appeal for me in this position. It's the opportunity to get involved with a start up with 30 years' history. The degree of change we've brought to the organisation has been comprehensive. We have fully renovated nine out of our eleven properties, changed the name of the company, brought in a new distribution technology, opened new sales offices and brought in an entirely new culture.
What makes the Doyle Collection different?
We have very clearly built a platform based on individuality, hence in the branding it's all about individual hotel experiences. We want to emphasise a sense of ownership, and place and pride in the places we operate it. In a sense, many of the hotels are in London "villages": Marylebone, Kensington, and Bloomsbury. They are almost like individual quarters and the hotels are at the centre of each. The vision for the company is to create a collection of individual luxury hotel experiences that make people proud: both the people working in them and the people who come to stay. Over the past 18 months we've put a lot of measurement vehicles in place so we can measure customer pride through JD Power and staff pride through colleague opinion surveys, and I'm a huge believer in the fact that if everyone in the organisation is proud of what they are doing, productivity increases, loyalty of customers increases and people will pay a premium to stay with the brand. Profit is derived from pride.
Which hotels have been refurbished?
We have made very good progress. We have three hotels in Ireland: two in Dublin, one in Cork. The Westbury in Dublin has been fully refurbished, while the other Dublin property at Croke Park Stadium and the Cork property were less than three years old and so only needed tweaking. Here in London we have three properties: the Marylebone which is complete, apart from the top floor suites. There is the Jurys Great Russell Street which will become the Bloomsbury Hotel this year. It has stayed open and half the lobby is done and in late November last year we opened a new restaurant and bar called Landseer which is Lutyens middle name because it is a Lutyens building quite close to the British Museum. Then on April 2 the Jurys Kensington will reopen as the Kensington Hotel. In Bristol we have the Jurys Bristol which was clearly the most challenged hotel in town and is now quite clearly the best. Then in the States we have the Jurys Boston which will rebrand in about a month to become the Back Bay Hotel, and in Washington, in addition to the Marriott property, we have one on Dupont Circle which will reopen on March 24 as the Dupont Hotel. Then we'll open a second phase of that in June where we've added a ninth floor of suites. Finally we have a boutique upscale guesthouse called the Normandy Hotel, with about 70 rooms, and we've just completed the renovation of that.
Where did the inspiration come from?
Well we hope it's original, but in London we would look at Firmdale and Gordon Campbell Gray who started at the upscale luxury boutique here with One Aldwych and Schrager of course. But the real inspiration was to avoid the obvious traps. The temptation on setting out on a journey like we are on is to take a formulaic approach, and we haven't done that. If we use a fabric or a wall covering in a design scheme, we challenge ourselves never to use it again.
That sounds like an expensive approach.
Well it's not inexpensive, but the fact that we're doing so many hotels at the same time gives us massive buying power. We might not be using the same chair covers, but we are buying all our furniture from George Smith. The furniture that you will see through the entire ground floor of the Marylebone hotel is George Smith. It's not knock-off George Smith that we had made in China, and if it looks like Mulberry fabric, then that's what it is. And we are also procuring directly, including the beautiful marble going into the bathrooms which was sourced from Italy. It's a very strong design and project management team working on this and we are going for premium brands. We are a new brand and you get credibility by association. We don't have no-name coffee machines, we have Nespresso Cube machines. We want linen on the beds, so we have Frette linen in the bedrooms and Acqua di Parma toiletries in the bathrooms. One of our brand signatures is to give generously. We charge confidently, but we give generously. So, for instance, we don't charge for broadband internet access across the portfolio.
Yet the hotels aren't five star.
They aren't rated five star, but from my time in Dubai I've become a little bit jaundiced about hotel ratings anyway. Some of the Jurys hotels used to have four stars as part of their logo, but if the man with the clipboard who decides the star rating says your elevator is too small or you need a swimming pool over there, then you won't get five stars. But we are aiming to deliver a very understated, elegant, contemporary expression of the luxury hotel experience. We are about quality, not bling.